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Bristol Grammar School report 2007

22 October 2007

My first ‘adventurous’ school trip as a teacher was to Morocco in October 1995 with a company called Discover Limited—we were, I think, the first school group to stay at the Kasbah du Toubkal. I can’t remember how I had come into contact with them—possibly an advert in a copy of Teaching Geography. The trip went incredibly well, a real life-changing experience for all of us who had taken part and for me the start of a passion for taking students to some amazing places that have ranged from meeting the Dalai Llama in the Indian Himalaya to the summit of Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

The month-long school expeditions have an emphasis on trekking and mountaineering but have also always included some sort of community project with children. These were always a great success and our students often learn a huge amount in the process—particularly about themselves, their lives and how much we can learn from others. On return we have usually continued to fund-raise for these projects, which have included an orphanage in Ulaan Baatar and a School in Ladakh. However, the remote location means that long-term links are difficult and the chance of returning remote.

I had kept in touch with Discover Ltd over the years and when I found out about the Education For All project I realised that here was an opportunity to run a smaller scale trip, develop long-term links with a project that was easier to return to, and still give our students the large expedition experience of fund-raising, planning and working with young children. There is also a niche here for those students who may not be able to commit to the 18 months of preparation, training and fund-raising and several thousand pounds of expenditure that the large expeditions involve. An 8 to 10-day trip with a cost of less than £1000 and two terms of preparation is a much less daunting a prospect.

The first trip was launched in September 2006 for an 8-day trip at Easter 2007. I asked students to apply for a place on the trip and in their application to state how they would raise £200 for the project. A place on the trip was conditional on being able to raise these funds. I held a meeting for students and their parents where the aims of the trip and the fund-raising expectations were set out. The ‘rules’ were that how the students raise the cost of the trip is up to them but the additional £200 must come from fund-raising events, not one ‘parental donation’. I limited the group to 12 students and in October 2006 our fund-raising began. Over 12 years of fund-raising I have learned to let the students run everything and just provide an oversight and perhaps ‘wise-council’ when they present their plans. Our fund-raising varied from one individual ‘climbing Toubkal’ on a climbing wall to jewellery stands at craft shows, supermarket bag packs, refreshments for numerous events, organising evenings out and using the school site as a car park for Christmas shoppers. My bit was a sponsored ‘escape from School’ where a colleague and I were sponsored to walk/run as far away as we could in a weekend! The key I think is little and often punctuated by few big events. My target of £2400 for the group was exceeded in the first term and in total we raised ’4200. Parents also became involved and helped support the project.

One of the benefits of fundraising for this project was that 100% of the funds raised go to Education For All, often in other expeditions funds are raised largely to subsidise the cost for the students taking part and this makes asking for donations much more difficult.

I think fund-raising provides many great learning opportunities for students. No one gives money easily—you need to persuade. Students learn that making plans is easy but putting them into action is much harder—changing from ‘saying’ and ‘promising’ to actually ‘doing’. Along the way you learn a lot about yourself, leadership and what makes a successful team.

There is also the work of planning what to do in Morocco. Students may initially assume that they can entertain large groups of Moroccan children, but a session trying the same with the children of our junior school soon opens a few eyes! Sessions were then spent planning activities to do with children in Morocco. In the Spring Term the team of students spent one afternoon a week working on tasks to do with the children in Asni and coordinating their fund-raising.

Our trip was for 8 days at Easter. We spent 3 great days in Asni, helping with the foundations for the school and playing with the local children. It was clear that this was a project with the support of local people and we were welcomed very warmly. The team realised the importance of their planning when faced with around 60 children to ‘entertain’ for an afternoon. I was delighted in how quickly relationships were made and barriers broken down. We then spent some time trekking in the area around Imlil before a return to the Kasbah, not the first return for me, but the first with a school group for nearly 12 years. Marrakech is one of the great cities of the world and a fantastic place to finish the trip.

The students and my accompanying member of staff all said it was a real highlight in their School careers and I returned ready to begin work on the trip for 2008. It will be great to see the boarding house in place and the first girls in residence. My ideas for this trip are to start to make links between the girls at the boarding house and girls at Bristol Grammar. We may also be able to help with educational resources – particularly for teaching English. One of the great things about this project is that we can return every year and the links should grow stronger – Inshallah

Andrew Dimberline
Head of Leadership Development
Bristol Grammar School

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